A poor but scrappy Arizona rancher (Christian Bale) takes a job transporting a notorious bandit (Russell Crowe) to a prison-bound train. James Mangold's remake of the 1957 Glenn Ford-Van Heflin drama hews close to its old-school Western roots; there's a good guy, a bad guy, a clear moral purpose, and plenty of shoot-'em-ups in the glorious Southwestern desert. The story shoehorns a lot in: the West's new opportunism; father-and-son drama; progress (i.e. the railroad) versus the individual; and the nature of heroism. Despite the gunplay, the real battle is the contest of wills and psych-outs between rancher and bandit -- and here one sees the advantage of putting decent actors in seemingly cardboard roles. Bale, once again appropriately half-starved-looking, is tormented by his shifting allegiance to his family, justice, self-worth and cold, hard cash. Crowe is well cast as the arrogant outlaw who teeters between methodical brilliance and instinctual impulsiveness; no simple black hat, he charms as easily as he kills. Starts Fri., Sept. 7.